I started this blog for many reasons. One, because very few female, solo, international, SOBO thru-hikers existed. It didn’t provide for a lot of useful research and I wanted to create that space for others who were going to embark on the same journey.
I finished the PCT in 2016. It’s been 4 years since then.
I never finished writing my blog, because frankly, it’s incredibly demanding to write when you’re on trail. It was something I dreaded every night. I don’t like my writing and I hated doing it. Part of me wanted to spend time recording each day so I could look back and relive every individual day spent on the PCT. The other part of me wanted to enjoy every second on trail while I was there, in the moment. Long distance hiking demands so much mental and physical capacity each day. I didn’t want to add to that by writing.
It may sound silly, but when you are walking across the country, the mental game is 100x more challenging than the physical. The physical, you learn to adapt to. The mental game is a long battle you’re constantly trying to win. You think of everything you can ever imagine. You think about every person you’ve ever met. Every stupid thing you’ve said or done. You think about your past and you think about your future. God knows you have the time for it.
I think I found a balance, in writing that is, which inevitably is the best way to approach most things in life. In the early days of my hike, I struggled with the decision: do I want to continue thru-hiking, or, do I switch to section hiking? I knew I came out there to thru-hike the PCT, but it was never a big deal for me to complete it. That mentality is kind of unheard of for SOBO thru-hikers, which at this point I wasn’t, and it was why I had a hard time at the beginning. I struggled with no one else relating to that. It was more important for me to enjoy the experience. Why would I want to do a thru-hike if I wasn’t going to appreciate it? I know better than to waste my own time.
I took breaks in Seattle. Portland. Ashland. I went to those places not knowing whether I still wanted to go on. I went to those places needing a break. Looking back, I think it was just my need for a materialistic, chaotic relapse. I always got back on trail. I always missed it too much.
I’m sorry to anyone who has read my blog and yearned for its finish. I know that may sound egotistic, but it has been a topic of discussion in the past. To be honest, it has always bothered me that I had never finished. My initial goal was to record a complete blog so other hikers could learn and take from my experiences. I benefited so deeply from the blogs I read, and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to approach the PCT with such grace.
The other reason I wanted to finish writing my blog was for Ken; you always asked when I was going to finish, as if you had always known I would do it. I wouldn’t have written this post if it wasn’t for you. I knew I at least owed it to you to write a final piece. So here we are:
So much happened between where I last left off and the end; Me, Toto, Gaucha and Colonel got through the Sierra. We hiked the desert. Grizz met up with us at Walker Pass. It was a surprise and we were so happy to see him. He had been camping in the desert for two days waiting for us. After so many miles, Grizz and Gaucha went off to finish the trail at their own pace. Me, Toto, and Colonel hiked the rest of the desert together. Grizz and Gaucha finished the trail. The rest of us finished a few days after.
There was a lot that happened in between. I have some lingering notes I never typed up. I could probably look back at a map and piece some sections together, as I did with my last few posts. I could finish writing about the latter half of my hike. But there is a lesson in sacredness. And part of me wants to keep those memories to myself. Who knows, maybe I’ll look back one day and want to write about the rest of my PCT days. I don’t doubt that I will. But for now, I think I’ll keep them to myself.
So, here’s to all the in between:
We saw rattlesnakes and tarantulas. We saw windmills. Lots of them. We learned that the desert isn’t flat. We had unexpected frost in the desert and I had a brush with death and cried through the night. We lost motivation. We went to Vegas. We got kicked out of Vegas. We saw the most incredible sunsets. Every night. I enjoyed every second of them. We loved the desert. We hated the desert. We got sucked in at the Anderson’s. We ate lots of pancakes. We almost lost Toto in Julian. We had one last sunrise. And one last sunset.
We were almost done the PCT.
We were done the PCT.
I don’t even remember what it felt like to finish the PCT. I’m sure it was anti-climatic. It still doesn’t feel like I hiked from Canada to Mexico. It’s hard to conceptualize. I remember seeing mile marker 1. Our last mile. Colonel looked back at us and offered out his hand. I started crying. We all joined hands and finished together. All I really remember is being so happy to be where I was, with the people who were with me. Grizz and Gaucha finished a few days earlier and met me, Toto, Colonel, Pippy and Gramps at the monument with some food and beer. Can you ask for better friends?
After we finished, the five of us (me, Toto, Grizz, Gaucha, and Colonel) spent a few days together in San Diego. It was a dream. I want to go back. We started saying our goodbyes. Toto and I took off to LA to start an adventure of our own; a love story that narrated the following three years. Me, Gaucha, Grizz, Colonel and Toto all still keep in close contact. I am thankful for them. I am happy to have them in my life. I wish they could take up a larger space but its hard.
My PCT experience was individual and unique in many ways. It had lots of ups and lots of downs. I wouldn’t it trade it for anything.
When people talk about the PCT, they either ask questions pertaining to the planning or the actual experience. No one talks about the aftermath.
I think I am one of the few people who really struggled with life after the PCT. When you go 4.5 months with a very direct goal in sight, returning to normal life can feel purposeless. At the same time, I was extremely goal oriented, which I think is natural after a thru-hike. I was filled with determination and adventure, but I had no way to translate it. I knew I wanted to be back in nature. I wanted to move to the West Coast. The “high” the PCT gave me caused me to set extremely unrealistic goals for myself, which led to a lot of disappointment and self doubt, despite what I had just accomplished. I felt over stimulated by the world around me. It was hard to relate to other people.
I think this is important to talk about because it’s a large mindset shift that not many people discuss. I don’t even know if its common for thru-hikers, although I imagine it is.
The PCT taught me more than I ever thought it would, in unexpected ways. It taught me that determination and perseverance are only as achievable as the limits you put on them. If someone asked me if I had perseverance before the PCT? No. After? Hell ya. And fuck ton of it.
It taught me that my body is a machine and its resilient and it won’t let you down. It taught me about people and about how well you can get to know someone if you have all the time in the world. It taught me to open up. It taught me to share things I would never share before.
The PCT showed me that the trail provides. It’s a joke in the beginning but it’s true. It showed me friendship. It showed me true love. It showed me heartbreak. The list goes on.
I didn’t go on the PCT to find my “true self”, an “inner journey”, or for any sort of self-exploration. Really, that was the last thing I cared to get out of the experience. But inevitably, that’s what you get. With every experience, you find a new part of yourself that you didn’t know existed before. Be awake for those moments. Watch them grow. It’s about the journey, not the destination. But maybe don’t tell that to a thru-hiker.
To the PCT:
Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I can’t wait until we meet again.